Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Continuum of Care?
Continuum of Care
The Boise City/Ada County Continuum of Care (CoC) is the system in Ada County designed to serve persons experiencing homelessness or those at imminent risk of homelessness. If you are experiencing homelessness, the CoC coordinates getting you re-housed.
The CoC includes a wide-range of housing and service providers, from prevention to emergency shelter to permanent housing, and seeks to ensure homelessness is prevented whenever possible, and is otherwise a rare, brief, and one-time experience.
The CoC is guided by federal regulations and priorities plus local needs and strategies. The City of Boise serves as the lead agency for the CoC.
Homeless Management Information System
The Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) is the CoC’s Homeless Management Information System. The system provides unduplicated data of all persons experiencing homelessness in Ada County, and federal regulations require CoCs to maintain such a system. We use the data from HMIS to perform administrative functions, to coordinate care, for research and evaluation to improve our response to homelessness, and for functions related to payment and reimbursement for services.
Our CoC does not have 100% bed-coverage; in other words, not all providers enter data into our HMIS. This is an issue we continue to work toward resolving so that we have as full of a picture of homelessness as possible.
Our Path Home
What is Our Path Home?
Our Path Home is the CoC’s coordinated entry system. Over 30 partner agencies in Ada County participate to provide a central location and coordinated response to households experiencing homelessness:
Access: one front door to find permanent housing
Assessment: one assessment to determine needs and strengths and begin a housing plan
Assignment: one list for all of Ada County, designed to serve the most vulnerable first
Our Path Home is a single point of entry to access the permanent housing interventions offered through the CoC, whereby persons experiencing homelessness are prioritized based on the length of time experiencing homelessness and the severity of their service needs. In this way, we can preserve the most intense interventions offered by the CoC for those that need it most and help resolve housing instability for those with fewer barriers using mainstream resources or the household’s own resources and strengths.
Partner agencies of Our Path Home, including those funded by the CoC, no longer maintain their own waitlists, and services are no longer provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. When a partner agency has a program opening available for a housing intervention, Our Path Home refers the household at the top of the queue, and the partner agencies have agreed to accept that referral and to work with the household to overcome their barriers to housing.Our Path Home
What about drugs and alcohol?
Persons with substance use disorders are in various stages of recovery. The CoC uses harm-reduction techniques to lessen the negative consequences associated with alcohol or substance misuse. For some people, this means they are abstaining from substances. For others, this means we are working with them to reduce use to a responsible level.
What resources are available?
CoC funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development bring in about $1 million annually for homeless service programs and projects. Other federal funds, such as Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funds, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, City of Boise general funds, and private and corporate philanthropy also support homeless service interventions.
The CoC connects persons experiencing homelessness to mainstream benefits made available through the Department of Health and Welfare, Department of Labor, social security, school districts, and others.
What does the research say?
The speed with which the CoC responds to a housing crisis matters. Homelessness is traumatic, and trauma disrupts the development of the brain, particularly for children age 5 and under.
The more a child experiences Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), the more at-risk they are for alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and suicide. Further, studies show a significant association between the number of ACES in people currently experiencing homelessness and those with an experience of homelessness sometime over the course of their life. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports policies to prevent ACES, including those that focus on safe, affordable housing.
What is Housing First?
Imagine trying to create a stable life without a home or trying to create the stability necessary to maintain housing if you are living in a shelter or on the street. Housing First is an approach to solving homelessness that emphasizes the utmost importance of having permanent housing – a place to call home. When we use a Housing First approach, persons experiencing homelessness are first housed, and then engaged to participate in the help they may need to improve their health and well-being.
Housing First does not mean “housing only.” However, Housing First stems from the premise that alongside any intervention, must come housing. Once housed, people need to be connected to the supports they need to prevent further episodes of homelessness.
What is New Path Community Housing?
New Path opened in November 2018 and is a 41-unit apartment community designed to serve Ada County residents experiencing chronic homelessness with significant and multiple barriers to housing. The units come furnished and there is a community room with a full kitchen, computer lab, laundry areas and recreational space.
New Path has an onsite property manager, and several staff employed by Terry Reilly Health Services and CATCH will work on-site during the week, including a social worker, case manager, 2 peer specialists, a registered nurse, and a housing specialist. These staff will provide support services to residents such as resolution of tenant-landlord issues, case management, mental health and substance use treatment, job counseling, and coordination of care.
By providing such support, the CoC’s goals for New Path include:
- Reducing the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness in Ada County
- Providing a safe place to live that offers evidence-based, effective support services to engage residents and help them achieve their personal wellness goals
- Reducing and preventing criminal justice system involvement
- Reducing the use of the emergency medical services system
- Increasing and strengthening connections to peers and the community at-large
Low-Income Tax Credits, funding from the federal HOME program and City of Boise general funds provided for debt-free construction. For the first time, the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority provided rental assistance by way of project-based vouchers, and the county and hospital systems are funding the supportive services.New Path Community Housing
How can I help?
How to Help
The CoC envisions a system wherein every person experiencing homelessness finds home. We know that, simply put, housing ends homelessness. Yes, the issue is complex. But that complexity should not delay our response, particularly when we have a framework of solutions to work within.
The CoC currently operates a model that includes a set of evidence-based practices. We have decent data and are positioned to make data-driven decisions. We are monitoring program performance and system outcomes closer than we ever have. We have formed an unprecedented collaboration.
And yet, we have work to do. We need to improve how we approach prevention. We need to expand street outreach. We need to intervene earlier and faster on behalf of children. We need to create permanent supportive housing inventory and respond compassionately to people experiencing long-term and persistent homelessness.
For households experiencing homelessness, the crisis is critical and immediate. It is now. Let’s not wait for the elusive cure-all when we have a functioning intervention model. We can’t afford to delay, and we don’t need to delay: we know enough about what works to get things done and to do better.
Call to Action:
- Invest. The money we compete for at the federal level is not enough to solve the problem.
- Advocate. Familiarize yourself with the information provided in these FAQs, and with the work of the CoC. To join the CoC and/or to receive our updates, contact the CoC Program Manager.
- Schedule a tour. Our Path Home opened a new, dedicated space in Fall 2018.
- Dedicate rental units to the CoC. To learn more, contact the CoC’s Landlord Relationship Manager.
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